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15 July 2009

Club Zho 86 / Liquid Architecture 10

Perth // WA // 06.07.2009

Queensland-based sound artist Joel Stern Image: Queensland-based sound artist Joel Stern  

Liquid Architecture rolled into town with music set to broaden the musical palate of Perth. One decade of Liquid Architecture history means that this festival is well versed in challenging any preconceptions of sound art, performance and music. It was exciting to see a whole troupe of artists with similar inventiveness in regards to performance, interaction and sound. The line-up for the Perth leg of the tour featured multiple dynamic and destructive sonic groups, but each was informed by a different conceptual ideology, making it not only a raucous burst of energy on the listening front, but a questioning of how we play music, and, more generally, what makes good new music.

The first performer of the evening was Jason Kahn (Switzerland) who created walls of resonating feedback tones, generated from a feedback loop of synthesiser sound projected into a large, amplified drum. The performance was physical and the sound was powerful, Kahn moving metallic objects and cymbals over the drum skin to control the feedback loop. As he swung the metallic disk closer, the feedback heaved and increased in intensity; gently touching the drum skin silenced the tone. Kahn’s performer movement-to-sound ratio was close to one-to-one, a demonstration of his control, while still leaving mystery as to the creation of the sound. The sound itself was massive: stacks of tones, synthesised (or altered) by Doepfer modules interacting with the feedback loop, made for some very complex sounds, both noisy and harmonious. Bass tones that burst into presence were particularly noticeable, providing an accompaniment and counterpoint to the high frequency pitches.

Kahn’s Doepfer analog synthesiser was a tangled web of patch chords, which seemed at times to create cuts in the audio and require some on-the-fly repatching. I felt that the performance could have used a little more variety in the tones produced, either from alterations to the synthesiser patch or the objects moved above the drum. The aural excitement, caused by Kahn's movements, was so intriguing that he could have created more rapid dynamic musical shifts. Having said that, the sound was huge and evolving, marrying the electronic tones and naturally resonating drum to great effect, an alive, pulsating electronic piece that was interacted with in real time.

Joel Stern (Queensland) began his performance some time during the introduction by TuraNew Music boss, Tos Mahoney, and took the audience by surprise in other ways, too, utilising one microphone along with a glass cup and what appeared to be akin to a ‘party hooter’, or a kazoo controlled by two foot pumps. Stern twisted and contorted, drawing a range of timbres from the often-maligned sound, and creating his own compositions. Apart from a seemingly unnecessary and static delay effect, the performance moved and shifted. Changes in rhythm, pitch and volume were amplified as Stern drew sounds from the feedback of the glass and the pump device.

The second half of Stern’s set consisted of a headband with flashlight, extreme strobe lighting, subconscious self-help tapes and chaotic flashes of electronic sounds. The synchronisation between low electronic bleeps and the strobe lighting effect was an easy attraction, but the chaotic ‘chased through the woods at night by a snarling, flashing bear’ feeling was something I have rarely been presented with in audio format – or any format for that matter. The performance was a surprising visual demonstration: this set was noisy and hectic but did adhere to a well-paced structure and differing rates of change. The movement seemed to be controlled by the rate of strobe lighting pulse, and linked everything back together to create a satisfying blast of confusion and panic.

Perlonex (Germany) are an interesting group indeed, an experimental trio that explore a wide range of timbres and sounds through turntables, electronics, electric guitar and percussion. The sound combinations create large juxtapositions; the turntable is powered by vibrating sheets of foil and metal, rather than records, and creates a grinding, snarling sound against the overarching guitar tone drone. The percussion drives the ensemble’s sound for the most part – where it is forceful and energetic, the layers swell and grow together, and when percussionist Burkhard Beins moves to more distant textures, the group drifts into ambience. Overall the movement of textures is very effective, timbres grate against one another and each performer plays off the other’s sound to great overall effect.

In some sections, the high-pitched ring of cymbals, combined with electronic drones over extended periods, was almost too much on the ears. But as this dimmed into quiet timbral dots of sound, it seemed that these experimental musicians were utilising abrasive textures as a means to create a dichotomy with the smaller sounds, and in doing so revealing a mass of new textural combinations and individual timbres.

Liquid Architecture 10 brought about an intoxicating blend of forward-thinking in new music. Each set provided a new set of materials, and the performances of each were, somehow, both visually and theoretically attractive. With sounds drawing from noise, analog electronics and electroacoustics, the performances themselves took new approaches to visuals, group improvisation and methods of sound generation. Here's looking forward to Liquid Architecture 11 and onwards.

Event details

Club Zho 86 / Liquid Architecture 10
Presented in association with Tura New Music and Meupe
6 July 2009
Ellington Jazz Club, Perth, WA

Further links

Liquid Architecture (www.liquidarchitecture.org.au)
Tura New Music - Club Zho (www.tura.com.au/events/clubzho/)
Nat Bates, Liquid Architecture 10 - an article by Gail Priest on RealTime Arts

Subjects discussed by this article:

Kynan Tan is a musician and sound artist from Perth, Australia. He is currently studying a Bachelor of Music: Music Technology, under the guidance of Cat Hope. He has performed on solo electronics in Berlin and composes music for electroacoustic ensembles, interactive music and installations. Forthcoming performances include new experimental works at Club Zho 87, the Ambassador from Everywhere w/ Kouhei Harada (Japan) and the Totally Huge New Music Festival Breaking Out Concert for emerging composers. More info: www.tura.com.au and meupe.net.


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